De Struise Brouwers 2011 edition of Pannepot "Old Fisherman's Ale" and brought it back to Columbus.
The brewery web site describes Pannepot as their flagship beer, and somewhere between a Belgian strong dark ale and a stout. They say that "Each sip hits you with complex flavors of toasty bitterness and deep caramel sweetness. With all its dark and strong complexity, this beer lends itself perfectly to all types of barrel aging, which is exactly what we've done. We've aged it on various barrels, including bourbon and calvados."
The beer pours a nearly black color with a thin beige head that lasts mere seconds. (I couldn't even get a picture snapped before it was gone.) This may have something to do with its high alcohol content (10% ABV). It leaves behind no lacing in the glass.
The aroma is loaded with dark fruit and perhaps a touch of leather. Its every bit as enticing as any dark Belgian ale I've ever smelled.
The flavor starts sweet and malty with dark fruit prominent. After this, the sweetness and fruit subside in favor of the malt and mild hops bitterness. The finish is malty, and is where you'll taste the barrel aging. Prior to the finish, there are tiny hints of it, but it doesn't come through until then. It's not like some of the more "barrel forward" beers like Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale or Innis & Gunn. It's much more subtle and refined. It's a truly delicious beer and one I would be happy to drink every day if I could.
Beer Advocate readers agree, rating it a 96 out of 100 or "world-class". Rate Beer gives it a 100. My own rating of 10 out of 10 is right there with them.
I do need to share a bit of info, though. Since the original bottle pictured above, I've bought other bottles of Pannepot at Jungle Jim's and a couple of local retailers. One or two of those bottles have tasted radically different than described here. I don't know if those bottles were perhaps mishandled, contaminated, or what may have happened - but they were not the same experience. They had an almost vinegary tartness to them that didn't go well with the beer's other flavors. If you decide to try this beer and find that it's not a sweet, malty, dark fruit experience, don't give up on it. You may have just gotten a bad bottle.
When it's a good bottle, this is hands-down one of my favorite beers. When it's a not-so-good bottle, it can be a pretty bad beer.